It’s pretty easy to be pessimistic, isn’t it?

I have to believe that there have always been pessimists, and I have to admit that there are plenty of times when I feel like one too. It’s not hard to look at the way things are and despair. It’s practically my default sometimes.

I think there are also some things that make us more pessimistic than we are naturally inclined to be.

I think watching too much of the news makes us pessimists. Why? Because the news is not just a neutral thing. It’s a product. It’s a product that is designed to make us feel a certain way (anxious, depressed, pessimistic) and then desire something (more news.) Have you ever noticed how the news is like potato chips? It never really fills you up, but you keep thinking you want more?

I think politics has a way of making us pessimists too. I don’t think this election season is making optimists out of anyone. I don’t think anyone believes that we are all going to just fall in love with Congress after election day. Politics is a lot like the news. The more we have of it, the more sick we feel. And election time comes around and we think this time it will be different!

And in this era of pessimism, I am reminded of something that was said in a different era of news and politics. She was never an official politician, though she was certainly a national leader. Perhaps there have always been just as many things to be pessimistic about. But somehow, the people who change the world resist the despair of the present.

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It is an amazing thing we have, this capacity to be endlessly optimistic, if we choose to be. But the beauty of the future will not come in the ways in which we are taught to believe. A beautiful future for you and I will not come through any politician we elect. It will not come through Congress. The beauty of you future will not come through a tech company, or anything else we can buy.

All of these things we look to and believe that this will finally satisfy and fulfill us. But they won’t. The only way that your future and my future are truly optimistic is that we actually listen to the still small voice, the dream, and we go. 

There are no substitutes.

I can’t even believe it.

If you want to know what it means for a town to lose its collective mind, send their long-losing baseball team to the World Series. Because that is what is happening here in Kansas City. And while it all still feels very precarious, the Royals have already made history, going 8-0 in the postseason. This is how people play when they literally have nothing to lose and no one expects anything of them. Maybe there is a lesson in there.

It was hard to not think about baseball this week, whether you’re a fan or not. Nevertheless, there was a lot of other good stuff that came across my radar.

On Plus or MinusPlusOrMinus_Revisions1_June9

My next book, Plus or Minus is one step closer to reality, with the editing process now underway. I am so thrilled to tell an editor that I trust him or her, and give them the reins to spill red ink all over my work. Plus or Minus is scheduled for release next February!

In My Blog Reader

Micha Boyett has long been a blogger for me to look up to, not for her tireless pursuit of faster blogging, list-making or social media domination, but more her refusal to try to be that kind of blogger. She reminds us that we are human first and writers second.

On a related note, Bonnie Gray writing at inCourage takes on the popular wisdom, that you are a brandEveryone thinks they have a “personal brand.” But is that brand really the most important piece of us?

Sarah Bessey writes a frank, yet sensitive post about using masculine pronouns for God, and I have to agree with everything she writes here. Finally, Tyler Braun takes on the perception that Millennials are notoriously uncommitted, flaky and unreliable.

That’s what fueled, entertained and challenged me this week!

Most businesses fail in the first five years.63399507023589182799

We know what failure means when it comes to business. It means that the business did not make enough money. It means that the owner could not feed his or her family. And beside the financial cost, there is probably a big emotional cost to a failed business as well. People pour their hearts into something that they hope will succeed and when it does not, it feels more like a personal failure.

But what does it mean for a church to fail?

This last week, I saw not one but two blogs about churches that “failed,” meaning they closed shop, went out of business, so to speak.

My heart went out to the authors, because I’ve been there. I’ve been a part of a church that ended. And it is heartbreaking.

But at the same time, I ask myself, what do we mean by a church failing? A church is not a business. A church is not a corporation. So what happens when we define a church in the terms of a business? What happens when we define “success” and “failure” the same way Wal-Mart defines those terms?

I have made a realization in the years since my own church failed. What happens is that the church has not failed. We have failed to define “church.”

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People are natural storytellers.

Stories are how we make sense of the world. Stories are how we make sense of ourselves and our past. Stories are how we identify our culture and identity.

It’s little wonder to me that so many people want to be storytellers. And there are a ton of people who can give advice, write blogs and books about how to be a storyteller. I have more than one book on my shelf, thank you.

I am convinced that as much as we want to be storytellers, most of us do not know how to tell stories. For as many stories as we have heard, we cannot tell them. Why?

Because we are not good at listening for stories.

We are not good at collecting stories.

Some people collect comic books or Star Wars toys. Others collect music or art. And some people collect stories.

And I think that is the key. Real storytellers know when a story is being told, even if no one else hears it. They know how to collect the stories that no one else is listening for. Most of us want to jump to the finish line and just be great storytellers. We want people to listen to us, as if we have the right to be listened to. But long before we become worthy of being listened to, we have to learn to listen.

Take one of my favorite short story authors, Eudora Welty. Her stories made it look easy. But no master artist, author or musician just skips to the finish line. There was a time when Welty shut her mouth, was not trying to be heard, and instead just listened.

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That listening may be the most important first step. And who knows how long she just listened. 

Our generation wants so badly to be seen and heard. But no one will feel seen and heard until they make other people seen and heard first.

Happy Friday, ya’ll.

It’s hard to believe, but next week, we are going in for our first “birth class.” I really have no idea what to expect from that, other than, “stand there and don’t be an idiot.” Or something like that. I don’t think there is much for guys to screw up in the delivery.

There was an awesome amount of stuff throughout the week, but these are the items that kept me most entertained, challenged and encouraged.

In My Netflix Queue

Several months ago, I recommended a documentary, That Guy from that Thing, a look into the world of character actors. This week, I really enjoyed I Know that Voicea similar documentary about the lives and work of voice actors. It’s actually more entertaining than That Guy, and it’s an interesting look into an industry that I know next to nothing about, though we are all touched by their work nearly every day.

In My Blog Reader

Leanne Penny wrote a postmortem on the little church plant that she has been a part of. When I say postmortem, of course that should indicate that the church plant is now over. If you have ever been a part of a church that ended, you know that it is a very emotional thing. The questions and self doubt are endless and it really does change the way you feel about church. Leanne captures all of this in all its painful beauty.

Caleb Wilde, our favorite funeral director, discusses a grief that is all too often born silently and secretly. It is the grief over a miscarriage, a life that was never known or seen by anyone, but is no less real. And again, I know from personal friendships and experiences that everything he writes is very true.

Jeff Anderson writes why loving God and loving others too often turns into just blah blah blah.

Emily Wierenga shares the truth about mental illness. Again, I cannot think of too many topics that affect more people than this. An important discussion to keep having.

And finally, Zack Hunt shares the ironic thing about fundamentalism, an opinion very similar to something I have shared here on the blog.

And that’s it for me this week. I will see you on the other side.

There will be a time, perhaps several years, when I am infallible, invincible and completely inerrant…

Yes, the time that my family will look at me this way and sincerely believe that I know best will be all too fleeting.

Yes, the time that my family will look at me this way and sincerely believe that I know best will be all too fleeting.

At least, I will be these things in the eyes of my child. I have to be honest and say that I’m looking forward to this, because the last time I was all of these things was when I was a teenager, and that’s been a while.

Yes, they say that parents are the equivalent of superheroes from a child’s point of view, able to do anything at all, solve any problem, and speak words of truth at all times. Every word I speak will be completely true to my child. Everything I do will be great in the eyes of my child.

Those will be nice days, the days when I have someone around who is too innocent to know the truth about me. Those days will not last long enough. Because the fact is, one day, a day that I cannot see nor prevent, my son will discover the truth about me.

That I am a hypocrite.

And maybe you have not realized it…but your children will discover the same about you.

But don’t worry. It’s not all bad news. In becoming hypocrites, we become human.

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